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Nearly 300 animals removed from home, couple arrested | News

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Nearly 300 animals removed from home, couple arrested

OLDSMAR, Florida  - A woman who shared her home with close to 300 animals, which the SPCA took away Sunday, is reacting to the incident.

Joyce Kovacs said she is glad the animals are gone. They belonged to her daughter, Jennifer, and her daughter's boyfriend, Jeffrey O'Neil, who lived with Joyce. Jennifer Kovacs and O'Neil were arrested for child abuse and animal cruelty.

"I'm kind of devastated, you know. I guess I feel bad for Jennifer and Jeff that they're sitting in jail, and yet they brought this all on themselves," said Joyce.

Animals -- including snakes, lizards, and rats -- were taken from the home along the 200 block of Lee Street after deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office responded to a call there about a missing infant.

Joyce said it was the couple's daughter, who a relative had come and taken away. According to deputies, a family member came to the house, saw the child was crying, but couldn't wake O'Neil. The relative left a note, which Jennifer and O'Neil didn't see.

That's when deputies saw all the animals being held in 88 cages. They described the home as being in "deplorable conditions." Some animals were even found dead and half eaten by others. According to deputies, they were being bred and sold without the proper licensing and conditions.

The SPCA Tampa Bay was called and they hauled all the animals away.

Joyce said her daughter and O'Neil sold some of the animals at flea markets or over the Internet, but the breeding got out of control. She added it's been that way for the past year. She said she told Jennifer and O'Neil they would have to leave the house soon, just recently. Joyce said she put up with it for so long for the sake of her granddaughter, because the couple had nowhere else to go.

All of the animals are in the care of the SPCA now. According to the organization, they will try to get the owners to sign the animals over to them. If not, the group will have to file for custody. 

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